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Myth Busting: A Shared IP Address Harms SEO

Posted 20th August, 2013 by Aliysa

A debate has raged for years in the field of SEO; well, let’s be honest, many debates have raged due to Google’s secrecy over their ranking algorithm. But one particularly prominent matter, heavily contested between SEO experts for a large chunk of Internet history, is whether Google ranks websites with dedicated IP addresses more preferably than sites with a shared IP address. I've crawled the web and the minds of industry experts to discover if sharing an IP address does in fact harm a websites search engine ranking, and whilst my results aren't conclusive, thanks to Google's secrecy, they are certainly worth bearing in mind.

It is viewed by some that if you share an IP address with a spammy or misbehaving website such as a link farm, this can have a negative effect on your search engine ranking - you are penalised for the behaviour of an unrelated website. Therefore, many regard a dedicated server with a unique IP address as a superior hosting solution that search engines are more likely to trust and give higher search rankings.

There are others who believe this to be a myth, and cite the words of two men as conclusive evidence against this. Like mentioned before, Google are extremely tight-lipped when it comes to the specifics of their ranking system, but there have been a couple of rare occasions where they’ve spilled the beans on this matter.

Back in 2003, Craig Silverstein, Google’s Director of Technology at the time, addressed a question concerning the value of having a dedicated IP address to SEO. He stated:

Google handles virtually hosted domains and their links just the same as domains on unique IP addresses. If your ISP does virtual hosting correctly, you’ll never see a difference between the two cases.

Three years later in 2006, the head of Google’s webspam team, Matt Cutts, further clarified this point, explaining:

There is no PageRank difference whatsoever between these two cases (virtual hosting vs. a dedicated IP).

Later, in 2010 and 2013, Matt Cutts specified an extremely rare scenario where sharing an IP address could effect your site - if you shared a server with a huge majority of spammy sites.

We're not SEO experts, but from our experience and knowledge these rare comments from Google spokesman are crucial to the debate: with such a huge amount of websites hosted on shared servers nowadays, Google - an undisputed innovation-leader in technology and computing, 44,000 employees strong - surely understands that all websites on a shared IP can not be treated as one? After all, IPv4 addresses are in short supply, so shared hosting is on the rise. Frankly, Google aims to provide the best search results possible and blanket penalties for all those on a shared IP would be detrimental to this interest.

Let’s look at the matter from another perspective though. Even if these statements from Google personnel are outdated and they do in fact consider the number of sites on an IP address as a search ranking factor, the weight and impact of this would be insignificant compared to other certified, established factors. The extra cost incurred in upgrading from shared to dedicated hosting could, for example, be traded for an investment in quality site content, which would go further in terms of SEO.

To reiterate - it appears the only possible scenario in which search ranking could be negatively affected from sharing an IP address would be if a large quantity of misbehaving sites emphatically outnumbered the amount of legitimate sites on the communal server. Here at Tsohost, we proudly host hundreds-of-thousands of legitimately practising websites, who make up the vast majority of our customers.

Absolutely there are benefits of being hosted on a dedicated server: you have ultimate control and flexibility over what’s installed on your server, as well as enhanced speed and performance. However, a dedicated server is not suitable, appropriate or necessary for some websites requirements, and you should definitely not be concerned about the speculated SEO impact of shared hosting if your website is lawful, well-behaved and not affiliated with black-hat sites.

What are your opinions on the shared IP address - SEO debate?

Categories: Dedicated Servers, SEO

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